|Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades|
كتائب الشهيد عز الدين القسام
|Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades emblem|
|Leader||Mohammed Deif , Marwan Issa|
|Ideology||Palestinian resistance, Sunni Islamism, religious nationalism , Palestinian nationalism|
The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades (Arabic language: كتائب الشهيد عز الدين القسام; named after Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, often shortened to Al-Qassam Brigades) is the military wing of the Palestinian Islamist political organisation Hamas. The practice leader is currently Marwan Issa. Created in 1992, under the direction of Yahya Ayyash, the primary objective of the group was to build a coherent military organisation to support the goals of Hamas, which was at the time concerned with blocking the Oslo Accords negotiations. From 1994 to 2000, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades carried out a number of attacks against both Israeli soldiers and civilians.
At the beginning of the Second Intifada, the group became a central target of Israel. The group's strength and its ability to carry out complex and lethal attacks surprised many observers. The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades operated several cells in the West Bank, but most of them were destroyed by 2004 following numerous Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) operations in the region. In contrast, Hamas retained a forceful presence in the Gaza Strip, generally considered its stronghold.
The group is named after Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, an Arab militant in the British Mandate of Palestine. In 1930 al-Qassam organized and established the Black Hand, an anti-Zionist and anti-British militant organisation.
Organization and structure
The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades are an integral part of Hamas. While they are subordinate to Hamas’s broad political goals and its ideological objectives, they have a significant level of independence in decision making. In 1997, political scientists Ilana Kass and Bard O'Neill described Hamas's relationship with the Brigades as reminiscent of Sinn Féin's relationship to the military arm of the Irish Republican Army and quoted a senior Hamas official: "The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigade is a separate armed military wing, which has its own leaders who do not take their orders [from Hamas] and do not tell us of their plans in advance." Carrying the IRA analogy further, Kass & O'Neill stated that the separation of the political and military wings shielded Hamas' political leaders from responsibility for terrorism while the plausible deniability this provided made Hamas an eligible representative for peace negotiations as had happened with Sinn Féin's Gerry Adams.
The fighters' identities and positions in the group often remain secret until their death; even when they fight against Israeli incursions, all the militants wear a characteristic black hood on which the group's green headband is attached. The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades operate on a model of independent cells and even high-ranking members are often unaware of the activities of other cells. This allows the group to consistently regenerate after member deaths. During the al-Aqsa intifada, the leaders of the group were targeted by numerous airstrikes that killed many members, including Salah Shahade and Adnan al-Ghoul. The current leader of the brigades, Mohammed Deif, remains at large and is said to have survived at least five assassination attempts.
Operations and activities
The transition into a recognized militant organization began during the establishment of the Oslo Accords to assist HAMAS efforts in blocking them. In 2003 and 2004, the brigades in Gaza resisted IDF incursions, including the siege of Jabalya in October 2004. However, these battles took a heavy toll in the brigade's ranks, which suffered heavy losses. The group, however, continued to gain strength and remained capable of carrying out attacks in the following years. The brigades can count on a large pool of people willing to join them, smuggle in supplies and provide the fighters with homemade weapons such as the al-Bana, the Batar, the Yasin and the Qassam rocket.
In early 2005, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades appeared to stand by a truce negotiated between the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority. However the brigades took advantage of the truce to regroup. Following Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in August 2005, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades staged several rallies in which they displayed thousands of fighters and an assortment of weaponry in Gaza. These celebrations ended abruptly when, on September 23, twenty Palestinians were killed as a car carrying Qassam rockets exploded among a dense crowd. Since this incident, the brigades refrained from staging public displays of force as well as launching attacks at Israel, which, in turn, refrained from targeting Hamas members in assassinations and raids. Despite occasional and brief flare-ups of violence, the brigades generally respected this truce until the beginning of June 2006. The Palestinian Authority has been, during this period, under intense pressure from Israel and the international community to disarm Hamas, but fears of heavy resistance from the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades and a possible civil war, coupled with a victory of the movement in the 2006 legislative elections, prevented any such attempts. As a result, it is widely believed that the brigades stockpiled thousands of homemade weapons and projectiles during 2005 and 2006 and were actively attempting to rebuild their destroyed cells in the West Bank.
In May 2006, a police force was formed in Gaza, consisting of thousands of brigade fighters. It aimed to restore law and order in the city but instead broke out into clashes with Fatah militias. On June 10, 2006, after the Gaza beach blast in which seven civilians died, the brigades announced a cessation of the 2005 truce with Israel. In the following hours, they claimed responsibility for launching Qassam rockets at the Israeli town of Sderot, and threatened to step up their attacks.
In June and July 2006, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades were involved in the operation which led to the capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, and in the subsequent heavy fighting in the Gaza Strip following Operation Summer Rains, launched by the IDF. It was the first time in over 18 months that the brigades were actively involved in fighting against Israeli soldiers. In May 2007, the brigades acknowledged they lost 192 fighters during the operation.
In June 2008, Egypt brokered a cease fire which lasted until 4 November when Israeli forces crossed into Gaza and killed six Hamas fighters which saw rocket attacks on Israel increase from two in September and October to 190 in November. Both sides claimed the other had broken the truce.
Since its establishment in December 1987, the military capability of the brigades has increased markedly, from rifles to Qassam rockets and more. The brigades have a substantial weapons inventory of light automatic weapons and grenades, improvised rockets, mortars, bombs, suicide belts and explosives. The Brigades fire Qassam rockets and mortar shells into Israel on a regular basis. The group engages in military style training, including training which take place in Gaza itself on a range of weapons designed to inflict significant casualties on civilian and military targets.
While the number of members is known only to the Brigades leadership, in 2011 Israel estimated that the Brigades have a core of several hundred members who receive military style training, including training in Iran and Syria. Additionally, the brigades have an estimated 10,000 operatives "of varying degrees of skill and professionalism" who are members of the internal security forces, Hamas and their supporters. These operatives can be expected to reinforce the Brigades in an "emergency situation".
According to a statement by CIA director George Tenet in 2000, Hamas has pursued a capability to conduct attacks with toxic chemicals. There have been reports of Hamas operatives planning and preparing attacks incorporating chemicals. In one case, nails and bolts packed into explosives detonated by a Hamas suicide bomber in a December 2001 attack at the Ben-Yehuda street in Jerusalem were soaked in rat poison.
List of brigades attacks against Israel
- 16 April 1993: A Hamas suicide car bomb kills two in Mehola Junction bombing.
- 19 October 1994: A suicide bomber detonates on a bus in Tel Aviv, killing 22 and injuring 56. Hamas claims responsibility.
- 25 December 1994: A suicide bomber detonates at a bus stop in Jerusalem, wounding 12.
- 9 April 1995: Two suicide bombers detonate in Gaza, killing one American, seven IDF soldiers and injuring 50. Hamas and Islamic Jihad both claim responsibility.
- 21 August 1995: A suicide bomber detonates on a bus, killing one American, four IDF soldiers and injuring 100. Hamas claims responsibility.
- 21 March 1997: A Hamas suicide bomber detonated at a Tel Aviv sidewalk café, killing three women and wounding 46.
- 4 September 1997: Three suicide bombers detonate in Jerusalem, killing four and injuring up to 200. Hamas claims responsibility.
- 27 August 1998: A bomb in a garbage bin explodes in Tel Aviv during rush hour injuring 14. Hamas claims responsibility.
- 19 October 1998: Two grenades thrown into a crowd at the Be'er Sheva bus station during rush hour injuring 59. Hamas claims responsibility.
- 29 October 1998: A Hamas suicide car bomber attempts to ram a school bus head on near the Gush Katif Junction. An IDF jeep escorting the bus blocked the bomber who detonated the vehicle, killing the driver of the jeep and injuring two others. Six people in the bus received light injuries.
Beginning of Second Intifada September, 2000.
- 1 January 2001: A Hamas suicide car bomber detonates in the city of Netanya, injuring 59. One victim died seven days later.
- 14 February 2001: A Hamas suicide bomber plowed a bus into a crowd and detonated, killing 8 and injuring 21.
- 4 March 2001: A Hamas suicide bomber detonates in the city of Netanya, three killed and 68 injured.
- 28 March 2001: A Hamas suicide bomber blew himself up amidst a group of students waiting at a bus stop in Qalqilya in the West Bank. Two killed and four injured.
- 22 April 2001: A Hamas suicide bomber blew himself up Kfar Saba killing one and injuring 50.
- 18 May 2001: An Hamas suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance of a shopping mall in the city of Netanya. Five people were killed with more than 100 injured.
- 1 June 2001: A suicide bomber linked to Hamas kills 21 and injures 76 in the Dolphinarium massacre in Tel Aviv.
- 9 August 2001: A suicide bomber detonates in Jerusalem killing fifteen and wounding 130 in the Sbarro restaurant suicide bombing. Hamas and Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine both claimed responsibility.
- 4 September 2001: A Hamas suicide bomber detonates in West Jerusalem injuring 15.
- 26 November 2001: A suicide bomber detonates at the Erez Crossing injuring 2. Hamas claimed responsibility.
- 2 December 2001: A suicide bomber boarded an Israeli bus traveling from the Neveh Sha'anan district in Haifa, paying the driver with a large bill he then blew himself up killing 15 and injuring 40. Hamas claimed responsibility.
- 4 December 2001: Two suicide bombers detonated one after the other followed by a car bomb in a mall in West Jerusalem. 11 killed and more than 130 injured. Hamas claimed responsibility.
- 9 March 2002: 11 people were killed and 54 injured, 10 of them seriously, when a suicide bomber exploded in the crowded Moment cafe in the center of Jerusalem. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.
- 31 March 2002: A suicide bomber kills 15 and injures over 40 in an Arab restaurant in Haifa in the Matza restaurant massacre. Hamas claimed responsibility.
- 10 April 2002: Six IDF soldiers and two civilians were killed and 22 injured in a suicide bombing on a bus near Kibbutz Yagur, east of Haifa. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.
- 7 May 2002: 16 people were killed and 55 wounded in a suicide bombing in a crowded pool hall in Rishon Lezion, southeast of Tel-Aviv. According to the Israeli government, Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.
- 19 May 2002: Three people were killed and 59 injured when a suicide bomber disguised as a soldier, blew himself up in the market in Netanya. Both Hamas and the PFLP took responsibility for the attack.
- 18 June 2002: A suicide bomber detonates on a bus in Jerusalem in the Patt junction massacre. The attack kills 19 people and wounds over 74. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.
- 16 July 2002: Nine people were killed and 20 injured in a terrorist attack on a bus traveling from Bnei Brak to Emmanuel. An explosive charge was detonated next to the bullet-resistant bus. The terrorists waited in ambush, reportedly wearing Israeli army uniforms, and opened fire on the bus. Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, the DFLP, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad all claimed responsibility for the attack.
- 31 July 2002: Nine people, including five Americans, were killed and 85 wounded when a bomb detonated by a cell phone exploded in the Frank Sinatra student center cafeteria on the Hebrew University's Mt. Scopus campus. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack but expressed regret for the death of the Americans.
- 4 August 2002: Nine people were killed and some 50 wounded in a suicide bombing of an Egged bus at the Meron junction in the Galilee. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.
- 19 September 2002: Six people were killed and about 70 wounded when a terrorist detonated a bomb in a bus opposite the Great Synagogue in Tel-Aviv. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.
- 10 October 2002: One man was killed and about 30 people were wounded when a suicide bomber blew himself up while trying to board a bus across from Bar-Ilan University on the Geha highway. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.
- 27 October 2002: Three soldiers were killed and about 20 people were wounded in a suicide bombing in Ariel. The victims were killed while trying to prevent the terrorist from detonating the bomb. The terrorist was identified as a member of Hamas.
- 17 May 2003: A suicide bomber detonated himself next to a pregnant Israeli woman and her husband at a public square in Hebron. Hamas claimed responsibility.
- 19 May 2003: A suicide bomber on a bicycle attacked an Israeli checkpoint on the Gaza Strip. Hamas claimed responsibility.
- 11 June 2003: A Hamas Palestinian suicide bomber, dressed as an ultra-Orthodox Jew, detonated his explosives belt on a bus in downtown Jerusalem. Palestinian terrorists have attempted 11 suicide bombings and murdered 23 Israelis in the last 4 days, since Palestinians "accepted" the "roadmap for peace" and the end of violence.
- 14 January 2004: A violent suicide bomber blew herself up at one of the entrances to Gaza's main Erex crossing terminal to Israel, killing three Israeli soldiers and a civilian and wounding twelve others. Hamas and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade (Fatah) jointly claimed responsibility. Hamas stated it used a woman suicide bomber for the first time in order to counter Israeli precautions.
- 17 January 2004: The armed wing of Hamas claimed responsibility for an attack in which two gunmen infiltrated Kiryat Arba, near Hebron, and killed a settler and wounded two others. The armed attackers knocked on the door and opened fire inside when it was answered.
- 29 January 2004: A suicide bomber blew up a bus near the prime minister's residence, killing ten bystanders and wounding at least fifty. Prime Minister Sharon was not home at the time of the bombing. The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack. Hamas has also claimed responsibility for the bombing and denounced al-Aqsa. Hamas has also sent a picture of the suicide bomber to the media to verify their claim.
- 14 March 2004: Ten Israeli civilians and two Palestinians suicide-bombers were killed when they blew themselves up at the southern port of Ashdod. One bomb went off at a citrus fruit packaging factory and the other at an office just outside the perimeter of the port. A cache of grenades was found later hidden in a bag with a false bottom. Hamas and the al-Aqsa Martyr Brigades claimed joint responsibility for the blasts, stating they were in retaliation for recent members deaths in Jenin.
- 28 June 2004: Two Israelis were killed and about fifteen others were injured when two home-made Qassam rockets landed on Sederot. Hamas has claimed responsibility for the attack.
- 29 June 2004: A Palestininan rocket attack near a kindergarten in Sederot killed a child and a man. More than ten people were injured. Hamas has claimed responsibility for the attack.
- 25 July 2004: children were injured when an anti-tank rocket was fired at a community center in Neve Dekalim. The rocket was fired from Khan Yunis and came as thousands of people were gathered at the center to protest against the Gaza disengagement plan. The children were playing in the yard outside of the center when the rocket struck. The Al-Qassam Brigades, a Hamas-linked militant group, claimed responsibility for the attack.
- 31 August 2004: Two buses near the Beersheba municipality building were blown up by a suicide bomber. The suicide bomber took advantage of the fact that the two buses were standing together. He blew up a bomb on one bus and then exploded a second bomb on the second bus. At least fifteen people were killed and around eighty-five injured. The military wing of Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that it as a response to the assassination of Yasin, a leading Hamas official.
- 7 September 2004: A rocket was fired at the Sederot settlement. One person sustained slight injuries. The military wing of Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.
End of Second Intifada.
- 27 February 2008: In February, 257 rockets and 228 mortars were fired from the Gaza Strip into the western Negev causing five injuries and on 27 February the death of a 47 year old student at Sapir College. Hamas has previously claimed responsibility for rocket barrages.
Leaders killed by Israel
On 3 September 2005, after Israel's withdrawal from settlements in the Gaza Strip, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam revealed for the first time the names and functions of its commanders on its website as well as in a printed bulletin distributed to Palestinians. Most of the information published, including pictures of three leaders, was reportedly already known by Israel's intelligence services. According to the bulletin, in 2006 Mohammed Deif was overall commander with Ahmed Ja'abari as second in command. Other sub-commanders controlled Gaza City (Raid Said), the northern Gaza Strip and Jabalya refugee camp (Ahmad al-Ghandur), southern Gaza Strip (Muhammad Abu Shamala) and Khan Younis (Muhammad al-Sanwar).
On 12 July 2006, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) bombed a house in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood of Gaza City, where Mohammed Deif, Ahmad al-Ghandur and Raid Said were meeting. The three-story house was completely leveled, killing Hamas official Nabil al-Salmiah, his wife, their five children and two other children. Two of the three brigades leaders present escaped with moderate wounds while Deif received a spinal injury that required four hours of surgery.
On 1 January 2009, Nizar Rayan, a top Hamas leader who served as a liaison between the Palestinian organization's political leadership and its military wing, was killed in an Israeli Air Force strike during Operation Cast Lead. The day before the attack, Rayan had advocated renewal of suicide attacks on Israel, declaring, "Our only language with the Jew is through the gun". A 2,000-pound bomb was dropped on his house, also killing his 4 wives (Hiam 'Abdul Rahman Rayan, 46; Iman Khalil Rayan, 46; Nawal Isma'il Rayan, 40; and Sherine Sa'id Rayan, 25) and 11 of their children (As'ad, 2; Usama Ibn Zaid, 3; 'Aisha, 3; Reem, 4; Miriam, 5; Halima, 5; 'Abdul Rahman, 6; Abdul Qader, 12; Aaya, 12; Zainab, 15; and Ghassan, 16).
On 3 January 2009, Israeli aircraft attacked the car in which Abu Zakaria al-Jamal, a leader of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam armed wing, was traveling. He subsequently died of the wounds suffered in the bombing.
On 4 January 2009, the Israeli Air Force struck and killed in Khan Yunis two senior Izz ad-Din al-Qassam leaders, Hussam Hamdan and Muhammad Hilo, both of whom the Israelis blamed for attacks against Israel. According to Israeli authorities Hussam Hamdan was in charge of rocket attacks against Beersheba and Ofakim, while Muhammad Hilo was reportedly behind Hamas' special forces in Khan Yunis.
On 15 January 2009, the Israeli Air Force bombed a house in Jabaliya, killing a prominent Qassam Brigades commander named Mohammed Watfa (the strike targeted the Palestinian Interior Minister Said Seyam, who was also killed).
On 30 July 2010, one of the leaders Issa Abdul-Hadi Al-Batran, aged 40, was killed at Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip by an Israeli airstrike.
On 14 November 2012, the IAF conducted an airstrike killing Ahmed Jaabari, the head of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigade. He was killed along with seven others in Gaza marking the beginning of Israel's "Operation Pillar of Defense".
- Yahya Ayash
- Adnan al-Ghoul
- Salah Shahade
- Wa'el Nassar
- Ahmed Jabari
- Salama Hamad
- Imad Abbas
- Nidal Fat'hi Rabah Farahat
- Abu Obeida, spokesman
- Yunis al-Astal 
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